Thursday, August 15, 2013

Mini Review: The Iliad of Homer, translated by Richmond Lattimore

Note: This is just a mini review because I've only read the first half of the poem as part of my summer reading for college!

Greek myths have always had a tight grip on my interests, especially when they're retold from a completely different perspective. There's something about the myths that speak of heroes and values of the past, and, of course, there's the magic that plays such a dominant role in all the stories. I've always thought of "The Iliad" as a sort of prequel to "The Odyssey", never expecting that it'd be a captivating story all on its own!

When I first found out that we'd be reading "The Iliad" in its original epic poem form, I was a little daunted. Sure, poems are great to read, but a 600-page epic poem? Even "The Odyssey", which I'd read back in eighth grade, was the high-school-ified prose version. Once I cracked open the book, however, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I began to enjoy reading the poem! I think there are several reasons behind this little epiphany. First, the story itself was exciting to read about. I mean, one of the greatest wars of all time between Troy and Greece? Yes please! Behind the action, however, lies the central theme of human nature, from our desire for glory to the common fate that binds us all together: death. Second, the gods themselves were made relatable and even amusing through the descriptions of their jealousies and squabbling and pouting. The fact that even such almighty, immortal beings are subject to human follies really shed some more light on that theme of human nature, and it's almost enlightening to read about. Third, Richmond Lattimore's translation really made it a smooth read. I expected obscure "art thou", "thy shan't" language, but instead, Mr. Lattimore used everyday, understandable language and syntax, whilst sticking to the words and essence to Homer's original poem.

I know this review is relatively short and not as detailed, but trust me when I say you should really give "The Iliad" a shot! Not only do you get bragging rights and the intellectual sensation of having read a classic epic poem (!), but you also learn so much about the way humans are, even if they lived thousands of years ago. Also, if you pick up Mr. Lattimore's translation, I highly recommend reading the foreword by Richard Martin--it illuminates the central themes of the poem and gives you things to look out for as you read "The Iliad".

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